Friday, November 27, 2009

Eat, Drink, Be Merry: Christmas on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Holiday staffers and guests always look forward to the Christmas holidays. It's a special time on the Island with a lot of activity and good cheer.

And, one of the highlights is always the Luminaria Festival. A magical celebration where beautiful luminaria line Periwinkle and the surrounding streets, the Festival bills itself as a gift to the community.

This year Sanibel Holiday will be participating in the Luminaria. We'll be hosting an open house where we offer refreshments, goodie bags and a small "gift". Our location, the Olde Sanibel Shoppes, is a highlight of the luminary trail. It is a trolley stop. Santa visits. A choir does a performance. All the businesses in this plaza do it up beautifully for the holidays. So we can't wait to get the holiday festivities off to a dazzling start on December 4 with the Luminaria!

During the actual Luminaria night, residents and visitors are able to travel through more than three miles of lighted luminaries to visit stores, shops and restaurants all beautifully decorated in their best holiday finery. The "attendees" of the Festival are also able to enjoy refreshments and live music. The festivities start at dusk and end approximately 9:30pm.

Aside from Luminaria and exploring the Island, if you like unusual and artsy stuff, you can really have a field day with Sanibel seashells with the holidays in mind.

Seashells are so beautiful in and of themselves, and their lovely configurations are ideal for creating unique Christmas tree ornaments.

According to one seashell crafts person the ease of creating seashell X-Mas tree decorations makes for a great project for the whole family.

First, the recipe for what you need to get started.

Ingredients Needed:

Sea shells
Gold Gilt or silver and gold paint
Tiny rosebuds (silk or real)
Glue gun
Clear nail polish
Gold or silver very thin ribbon or cord

Next, the process, what you need to do to "cook" your trinket:

1. Gilt or paint your shells and let dry. (you can also leave the shells plain and cover with clear nail polish if you prefer).

2. Glue a rosebud or pearl in the well of the shell or decorate it how you want.

3. Glue a loop of the thin ribbon or cord on the top to hang it with . Cover base of ribbon hang with with rosebud , pearl , or a bow.

A simple recipe, an easy meal!

All it takes is to get yourself down to Sanibel, and this year it also should be easier than ever.

Lovely condos are available that normally are booked at this time of year. Airlines are offering good deals, car rentals are below normal in rates. And seashells? Well the shells are already there waiting for you and free for the taking!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Want Great Nature Photos on Sanibel? Choose Your Time and Place First!

Sanibel Island offers great photo opportunities for sunrise and sunset shoots. These are pretty much no brainers. Just show up on the East End (near the light house) for that early morning shoot and on the West End (on Bowman's Beach) for the dusk photography.

Given the spectacular nature of sunrise and sunset Island skies, you will most likely get off a few excellent shots.

Nature photography, particularly bird photography, is a bit more challenging. The birds and other animals are not quite as predictable. It's always smart to carry a camera with you on walks and beach treks as you just never know what you will find.

Last week, an eagle on the beach near Bowman's thrilled beach goers. But who knows when and if he will ever return to that spot.

A more likely location is the nature preserve on the Island.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is a famous spot to photograph Florida birds. Like the Galapagos Islands in South America, birds that are difficult to photograph in other places are so accustomed to people here that you can get very up close and personal and fill the frame with a 300mm lens.

It is also common to see families of raccoons panhandling from the cars parked along the wildlife drive. The first time I witnessed this, I thought the raccoons were ill as in other places I have lived, they only show up after dark. But Sanibel raccoons are the quintessential opportunists and their stomachs are their guides to behavior. If they are hungry and see a way to fill their furry bellies, they are no clock watchers!

In recent years a large female American crocodile has taken up residence in the refuge and can sometimes be seen basking by the side of the main road through the refuge. This may be the only place in Florida where you can see and photograph an endangered American Crocodile from the comfort of your car! Of course, you can see alligators and shoot them all over Ding Darling, just stay back from the water.

Almost every kind of North American wading bird can be seen at Ding Darling, however luck and the state of the tide can make a huge difference in the type of photographs you get. Photo opportunities are best one hour before and after low tide low tide and early morning light, so check the tide tables before you plan your trip! And remember that the refuge is closed every Friday.

The nearby Sanibel Fishing Pier and Lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel is a great place year round to shoot herons, pelicans and other birds who show up looking for goodies from the fisherman there.

And don't worry if you don't catch the picture perfect nature shot the first time out. There's always tomorrow!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rainy Day Things to do on Sanibel Island

Though the sun shines on Sanibel most days of the year, we do have some rain fall. The lush landscapes on the Island reflect the perfect blend of sun and rain.

While there are dozens of ways to have fun in the sun, there are almost as many to enjoy those times when the rain is falling, usually gently, on our tropical flora.

In fact, one of the pleasures of vacation rentals is that you don't have to go very far to find your entertainment. Most of the condos and houses on the Island are well equipped to offer rental guests diversions for a rainy day. Books, games, dvd's, cable hook up on tv's all come standard in the vast majority of vacation accommodations.

In addition, almost as easily one can find some pleasant diversions outside of one's vacation rental. Here are a few of our favorite rainy day past times on the Island.

  • The Sanibel movie theatre, Island Cinema, is a clean, comfortable venue showing new releases and providing discounts on matinee tickets. Showings are at 1 and 4 and you'll need to call to confirm movie times.

  • Big Arts bills itself as "a home for all the arts" and lives up to that promise. In addition to the two galleries, open Monday through Friday, there are numerous art exhibits, lectures, photography shows and lectures that take place daily.

  • The Bailey-Matthews shell Museum provides a wonderful glimpse into the shell history of the Island and also has an extensive library with books on shells as well as gift store with some of these same books (and others) for sale.

  • And speaking of libraries (which we love to do), the adorable and well inventoried Sanibel library is a great place to hang out on a rainy day. You can browse the stacks, take a favorite out to the screened in porch to read or catch up on emails at one of their many computers open to the public. They even have a separate children's room and teen space. From time to time, they have visiting authors and book signings. Just check their calendar.

And of course, rainy days are quickly filled up with browsing the dozens of neat shops on the Island. Some of our favorites are Wilford and Lee, The Cheese Nook and Tuttles Sea Horse and Sea Shell Shop. We encourage you to find your own favorites. There are plenty to choose from!